adventures in baseball archeology: the negro leagues, latin american baseball, j-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports
Here, courtesy of Dwayne Isgrig, is a photo of LutherFarrell from the St. Louis Argus (May 6, 1921), showing Farrell in 1920 when he played for the St. Louis Giants:
If you haven’t, you should really check out Dwayne’s Facebook page for the St. Louis Giants, where he posts all kinds of cool stuff, from box scores to Tweed Webb’s obituary for Sam Bennett to present-day photos of the GiantsPark location.
In the previous post I noted that “we don’t know what architect or contractor was responsible” for building Giants Park in St. Louis, one of the earliest ballparks built specifically for a Negro league team. I then guessed that, because the park was not built in a black neighborhood, it seemed “less likely that a black-owned firm was involved.”
Well, up steps Dwayne Isgrig, the go-to guy on the St. Louis Giants, with some court documents from a 1921 case. It seems that the contractor responsible for improvements, additions, and alterations to the park undertaken before the start of the first Negro National League season in 1920 was never paid. He had to sue the Giants’ owners and the owners of the park.
The defendants in the case were 1) the Athlone Realty and Investment Company, owners of the real estate on which Giants Park was built, and 2) John Haynes and the St. Louis Giants Baseball and Amusement Company, who leased the land. The Athlone Company was named after a street in the neighborhood, and Dwayne points out that Conrad Kuebler, the promoter who used to bankroll the Giants years before, lived near the park. Haynes was one of several African American financial backers of the Giants; presumably he’s singled out because at this point he was the majority owner of the team or its chief executive. (The documents also note that both Haynes and the St. Louis Giants had obtained interests in the real estate itself, thus becoming at least part owners of the land and park.)
Anyway, the plaintiff in the case was a contractor named Tony Menke, a German-American who emigrated with his family in 1887 when he was six years old. He was, unsurprisingly, listed as white on all documents I could find. Dwayne suspects that Menke was an associate of Kuebler. Now it’s true that this only proves that Menke did the 1920 improvements; we don’t know if he was responsible for the original construction of the park in 1919. But it’s a piece of information well worth having.
One more thing, maybe more important, emerges from these documents—a description of the piece of real estate on which Giants Park was built:
An article in the St. Louis Argus (April 25, 1919, p. 4; courtesy of Patrick Rock) about the building of Giants Park in 1919 gave its dimensions as 560 by 400 feet, which made it seem that they had enclosed Holly Avenue and stretched the park into the next block. (Clarence Avenue runs down the far left on this map; Holly Avenue is the street separating lots 3446 and 3445, running vertically here from Prescott to Broadway.)
The court documents provided by Dwayne, however, show that these dimensions are wrong. Giants Park was located entirely in lot 3446. Right field was in fact bounded by Holly Avenue, and thus much, much shorter than 560 feet (perhaps it was really 360?). I had noticed a number of home runs hit in St. Louis over the right field fence in 1920 and 1921; it looks like Oscar Charleston’s epochal 1921 season took place in a home field that was pretty friendly to left-handed hitters.
Courtesy of Dwayne Isgrig, here are some photos of Kuebler’s Park, intermittent home of the St. Louis Giants from 1908 through 1915. Dwayne obtained them from the granddaughter of Henry Kuebler, brother of Conrad Kuebler, financial backer of the Giants through much of this period.
It might be hard to see, but a close examination of the buildings in the background show that this is indeed the same ballpark that appears in this photo from the Indianapolis Freeman. They also seem to match up with the buildings that line the opposite side of Pope Avenue in the 1908 fire insurance map of St. Louis found by Kevin Johnson.
Here’s a photograph of the St. Louis Giants’ Kuebler Park in 1909, from the Indianapolis Freeman (June 12, 1909). It’s not a great image, but it is a pretty unusual shot of a Negro league game in progress with a broad view of the small ballpark.
And here, from the same page, is a team photo of the St. Louis Giants themselves. Again, a bad image (you can barely make out their faces), though you can get a decent idea of what their uniforms looked like.
Dwayne Isgrig recently sent me a question from Wayne Stivers, who was wondering if anyone had a first name for a pitcher named “Poree” who appeared in a single Negro National League game for the St. Louis Giants in 1921. Dwayne dug up this interview I did with Scott Simkus a while back, in which I said I’d figured out Poree’s identity.
Well, it’s a circumstantial case, but a pretty good one, I think. Both Dwayne and I have seen items in the St. Louis Argus mentioning Poree (no first name) pitching for the Sumner High School baseball team. (Sumner High’s alumni, by the way, include Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Arthur Ashe.) He was picked up by the Giants in June, presumably after the end of the school year, and first appeared for them against the white semipro Quincy Moose Gems:
(St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 14, 1921)
Poree worked in at least one other game for the Giants in July against Jewell’s A.B.C.s, a minor team from Indianapolis, before making his one and only Negro league appearance on August 2 against Joe Green’s Chicago Giants:
(St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 3, 1921)
After 1921 he vanishes from the Negro leagues. But in 1924 “Salvador Poiree” (sic) pops up in Chicago, pitching for an all-black team in the postal league:
(Chicago Defender, City Edition, August 2, 1924, page 10; NB—this is the City Edition; you won’t find this article in the ProQuest digital version of the Defender, which is the National Edition.)
Poree was still pitching in Chicago semi-pro ball as late as 1929, by then for a team called Jimmy Hutton’s All-Stars, which consisted of black postal workers:
(Chicago Defender, National Edition, August 10, 1929, page 8)
Joining Poree on the All-Stars were Negro leaguers Reuben Curry, George Sweatt, John Hines, Buddy Hayes, and James Bray, as well as prominent local players Ira Ward and Carter Wilson. The venerable spitballer George Harney, former American Giants ace, also played for the All-Stars in 1929.
In the 1930 census you can find Ward, Wilson, Hines, and Bray in Chicago, all listed as postal workers—along with “Salvadoree Poree” (again sic), postal clerk, 27, born in Louisiana, and living with his wife Maude, who was born in Missouri, and two daughters.
Working backward to the 1920 census, a 16-year-old named “Salvador Porre” can be found in New Orleans living with his parents Joseph and Rita Poree, and three younger brothers, Curtis, Marshall, and Norman.
Working forward to the Social Security Death Index, we find a single person named Salvador Poree, born February 21, 1903, died January 1979, with his last residence in Roselle, Du Page County, Illinois.
To sum up: the only thing really missing here is a direct reference to Salvador Poree having a connection to St. Louis—although according to the 1930 census his wife was born in Missouri. He was still living in New Orleans as of January 1920, so his family would have had to move to St. Louis within the next year, with Salvador himself winding up in Chicago by 1924. At least one of his brothers (Marshall) was also living in Chicago in 1930, so it could be that the whole family moved to Chicago.
Since Poree had at least two daughters (as of 1930) as well as three younger brothers, it seems very likely that there are living relatives who might remember him. In any case, he serves as an object lesson in how much you can find out about obscure Negro leaguers, even the briefest cup-of-coffee hopefuls.
Mark Aubrey has got a series of posts up about Walter Claude “Steel Arm” Dickey (mentioned briefly in this post), a lefthanded pitcher who toiled mostly for southern teams, but appeared briefly with the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League in 1922, before he was murdered in Etowah, Tennessee, in 1923.
As Mark notes, there are numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in the various accounts of Dickey’s death. Unsuprisingly the two white sources (the Chattanooga and Knoxville newspapers) see Dickey and his “crowd” as the aggressors, with the white killer, Waldo Keyes, acting in self-defense and escaping in an automobile that just happened to be passing by. The two black sources (the Chicago Defender and Cool Papa Bell) say Keyes was the aggressor; the Defender says he arrived with companions in what would be his getaway car. Anyway, you can read Mark’s posts and the articles and come to your own conclusions.
A tangential note: the Chicago Defender article, unlike the Knoxville and Chattanooga papers, is keenly aware of the racial geography of the area. It makes sure to point out first that Dickey was murdered in the “Jim Crow section” of Etowah—that is, the very small black neighborhood—and, crucially, that after the killing Keyes fled to Copperhill, a small town right on the Georgia state line. The Defender article chooses its phrasing carefully, calling Copperhill “a city that is dangerous for any person of color to even pass through in the day time.” “Sundown towns” were southern communities where blacks might work, but could not live, and were expected to clear out by sundown. In other words, the Defender was linking Keyes to a place it considered even worse than a sundown town.
What I’d originally intended as a couple of posts about the ballparks used by the St. Louis Giants, especially Giants Park (1919-1922), has turned into a kind of impromptuhistory of the Giants themselves. The most important thing I hadn’t realized in taking up this subject was just how many obstacles the team faced over the years, far more than any other northern Negro league team of the era that I’m aware of. From their beginnings in 1906 through 1918, the Giants had to contend with rapacious white financial backers, the resentment of local white semipro teams, difficulties finding a home field, hostility and outright interference from the major-league St. Louis Browns, and the vicious race riots in East St. Louis in 1917.
But Charlie Mills and the Giants persevered, and in 1919 things finally took a turn for the better. Mills was able to lure back a number of the team’s stars from previous years, and the owners put up the capital to build an entirely new field for the Giants. This new Giants Park was adjacent to the old Kuebler’s Park (itself also known as Giants Park), and stood at the corner of North Broadway and East Clarence Avenue, bounded by Prescott Avenue in left field and Holly Avenue in right, and across the street from O’Fallon Park, a public park. Here are a couple of articles from the St. Louis Argus, the first from April 25, 1919 (p. 4), the second from May 2, 1919 (p. 4).
(Click to enlarge either story.)
Note that motion pictures were to be made of the first game in the new park, vs. the Mexico (Mo.) Grays, a white semipro team. As it happens, the originally scheduled date (Sunday, May 11) was rained out, but the game went on the following day, when the ballpark was dedicated. You have to wonder: does any footage of opening day 1919 in Giants Park still exist somewhere?
Here’s another piece from the Argus the following spring (May 28, 1920), discussing an expansion of the ballpark made in preparation for the first season of the Negro National League. Here we find confirmation that the grandstand was built at the corner of Clarence and Broadway, with bleachers in the outfield, and Holly Avenue as a boundary.
(Many, many thanks to Patrick Rock and Dwayne Isgrig for providing material from St. Louis newspapers for this period.)
And here’s a Sanborn fire insurance map from 1931 showing the location of Giants Park, though no ballpark is depicted (East Clarence Avenue is on the left margin; Holly Avenue runs between lot 3446, where the park was located, and lot 3445):
The dimensions noted in the Argus (400 x 560 feet) seem right for the distance between North Broadway and Prescott, which were about 400 feet; but 560 feet the other way would extend considerably beyond Holly Avenue, and seems to indicate a pretty deep right field fence. At the same time, I’ve seen a number of mentions of home runs hit over the right field fence (usually by Charlie Blackwell or, in 1921, Oscar Charleston), so it probably was not that deep.
The St. Louis Giants played their home games in this park through both their seasons in the Negro National League, including the very successful Charleston-led squad of 1921, before Mills was ousted before the 1922 season and the NNL St. Louis franchise awarded to a new group led by Richard Keys and Samuel Shepherd. They changed the team’s name to the Stars and, because Giants Park was still rather distant from the city’s major black neighborhoods, made plans for a new park at Compton and Market. This would be Stars Park, with the famous trolley car barn impinging on left field. The old Giants Park became the home of the St. Louis Tigers, a Negro Southern League Club; but because Stars Park was not ready until July, 1922, the Stars (featuring rookie southpaws Cool Papa Bell and Earl C. Gurley) played their first nine home games at the old field.
Giants Park apparently still existed for a number of years, and in 1937, when Dizzy Dismukes managed a new version of the St. Louis Stars in the Negro American League, the team used the site, now called Metropolitan Park, as its home field. By 1950, however, the space had been taken over by the McCabe and Powers Auto Body Company. Today no sign of Giants Park is left.
(Thanks to Kevin Johnson, who started the search for Giants Park and other Negro league ballparks in St. Louis.)
From 1911 through 1915, the St. Louis Giants apparently played at several of the ballparks mentioned in the last post: Handlan’s Park; Kavanaugh’s Athletic Park; and Kuebler’s Park, which was sometimes also known as Giants Park. As late as 1915, Conrad Kuebler was again apparently the team’s main financial backer, though it’s unclear how consistent this relationship was during the early 1910s.
None of the aforementioned locations proved to be permanent, and in 1916 the Giants’ ballpark situation deteriorated dramatically. Their earliest games that season were played at the Christian Brothers College diamond. Later, when local semipro baseball promoter Eddie Brock stepped in as the team’s financial backer, they began playing ball at Brock’s Park at 3600 South Broadway. Brock arranged a number of four-team doubleheaders, with local white semipro teams pairing off in the opening game and the Giants facing their opponents (black or white) in the second game. The white clubs, however, objected strenuously to their games serving essentially as opening acts for a black team, and the Giants soon moved their home games back to Handlan’s Park, which had been expanded and refurbished for use by the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers, and was now known as Federal League Park.
The stadium was still owned by its namesake, Mr. Handlan, but Phil Ball, owner of the Terriers, maintained his lease on the park, even after the Federal League folded following the conclusion of the 1915 season. Ball bought the American League’s Browns and their home field, Sportsman’s Park. It was evidently Ball who hired out the now vacated Federal League Park to the St. Louis Giants in late summer, 1916; but by the following spring he had come to regret doing so. Eddie Brock, still the Giants’ main financial backer at this point, secured a five-year lease starting when Ball’s lease was set to expire, on April 9, 1917. The St. Louis Argus (April 6, 1917, p. 8) picks up the story from here:
“Brock has been having some trouble with Phil Ball, owner of the Browns, who it seems is anxious to keep the Negro team out of the park at Grand and Laclede. Brock has signed the leading stars on the diamond for this season and the Giants bid fair to outdraw the American League Club. Ball’s lease expires April 9 and to handicap the colored club he attempted to remove the seats from the grandstand. This being against the law and contrary to agreement with Mr. Handlan [still the park’s owner], [Ball] was enjoined by Brock.” (Thanks to Dwayne Isgrig for sending me this story.)
From late July through September, 1916, the St. Louis Giants had played major black opponents in Federal Park on the same day the Browns were in town at least 15 times. I don’t have any attendance figures for the Giants’ games, so it’s not clear how likely it was that they might have outdrawn the Browns, but there is definitely support for the notion that Ball might have feared the Giants’ cutting into his receipts.
I don’t know exactly what happened then. Perhaps Ball was able to prolong his lease on the park, or maybe Brock changed his plans, but for whatever reason the Giants were never able to play in Federal League Park that season. They used Brock’s Park a few times early on, along with Polo Park in East St. Louis (19th St. and Lynch Avenue).
So the Giants soldiered on through active hostility from the St. Louis Browns. But that would not be their most formidable obstacle in 1917. On May 20 the Giants faced the Nebraska Indians at Polo Park, edging former major league pitcher JimBluejacket 7 to 6. Eight days later a riot broke out in East St. Louis, as gangs of whites, angered by the importation of black workers from the South as strikebreakers, attacked random black people in the street as well as black-owned or patronized businesses (saloons, barber shops, restaurants). The governor of Illinois had to call out the National Guard. Unsurprisingly, the St. Louis Giants appear not to have used Polo Park again that season. Coincidentally or not, the team appears to have lost a number of its best players around this time, as men such as Jimmie Lyons, Charlie Blackwell, Bill Gatewood, and captain Bill Pettus moved on to other major black teams.
By late June the Giants were attempting to reorganize, with Charlie Mills again as business manager. Eddie Brock was evidently out of the picture and the club was now backed by black capital, with a saloon owner named Langston Harrison and another man named John H. Haynes behind the venture. But on July 1 violence broke out again in East St. Louis, this time more vicious and on a much grander scale. Between 100 and 150 black people were shot, burned, beaten, and clubbed to death by white rioters in what the St. Louis Globe-Democrat called a “blood orgy.”
In the wake of such insanity, the St. Louis Giants appear to have kept a low profile in the St. Louis area, if they played at all after June. In 1918, with the aftermath of the riots as well as World War I taking center stage, Mills seems to have chosen not to field a team at all. But the following year everything changed.
I’ve got a piece in the latest Outsider Baseball Bulletin about Cool Papa Bell’s rookie season with the 1922 St. Louis Stars. In February 1925 there appeared a series of articles in the California Eagle penned by Earl C. Gurley, who like Bell had been a rookie southpaw with the Stars in 1922. (Gurley played the 1924/25 winter season in Los Angeles with a team called the St. Louis Giants, organized by Lorenza Cobb, former catcher and longtime manager and promoter.) This is actually a rare and valuable document, a fairly detailed, first-person account of the early 1920s Negro leagues that was written very soon after the events described. It covers Gurley’s introduction to professional baseball with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts in 1919, his move to the Nashville Elite Giants the following year, and his signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922 on the advice of outfielder Charles “Doc” Dudley.
It also gives us an account of Gurley’s first game, a June 15 start against the Chicago American Giants in the old Giants Park in St. Louis (Stars Park would not be finished for another three weeks). Gurley, like Bell, has a very precise memory of the game, including the exact score, a 7-6, come-from-behind victory by Gurley and the Stars over Ed Rile. Gurley, perhaps out of modesty, manages to avoid mentioning that he helped his own cause considerably by knocking out the game’s only home run.
My Pitching Experience
By Earl C. Gurley Of The St. Louis Giants California Eagle, February 13, 20, and 27, 1925.
Part One In the spring of 1919, while helping to pitch Howard high school…to the championship of the city schools in my home town, Chattanooga, Tenn., by luck I won the deciding game of the series. While leaving the field a fellow came up to me and said that was a wonderful game you pitched and you should be in the Southern League. I thanked him and started off, when he continued, I can get you a job, if you want one. I turned to him and said, all right. The next day [Saturday] he came by my home…and said come on[,] they are waiting on you, and really it seemed like a joke, but when I got over to the field where they were practicing for the Southern League, I found out differently. He gave me an introduction to the manager, whose name was Bishop. Then he asked me what I could do, so I said I can pitch a little, but there is a lot I can learn. He acknowledged that with a smile and said here is a uniform. I put it on in a little house nearby. After practice he said you will report to me Monday at 9:30.
[When] training season [was] nearly over[,] I really doubted myself when they were letting those didn’t make good go, but to my surprise the manager did not let me go. Well, the season started. My first game I lost, ten to three. The manager came to me and said you will have to beat that. All my teammates were talking around that I could not pitch and why should he hold me, but I guess he still saw something good in me, and too, I suppose I was more nervous than anything else. However, with all that discouragement I still believed that I could pitch. Then all the stars began to falter, and to my encourageable spirit, I began to win. Then came a most trying test. Nashville at that time was tied with us for third place, and we were then in Nashville. We won the first game, lost the second and tied the third. Sunday came and a large crowd really did me a lot more harm than it does now. Well[,] again fate played my hand. I won.
That night I could send a telegram home to tell the good news. After a couple more months the season closed again and I went back to school.
And the next spring  I was traded to Nashville for a couple of players. Part Two In Nashville, 1922, was one of the hardest years of my career. There were four leading pitchers and all of them favorite[s] of the Nashville fans. Pitchers Noel, Moore, Young and Miller, but I felt as if I would make good. However, fate dealt me some more hard luck. In spring training my arm went wrong and it was about the tenth of June before I could do any pitching, although it was only relief duty. All I could hear was, Mr. Noel, Moore, young and Miller. I went to Mr. Wilson, the manager of the team[,] and said, “I believe I had better go home—my arm won’t let me do anything.” But Mr. Wilson replied, “Don’t be a joke of the fans.”
And that night I lay alone in my bed at home trying to think of some way to get my arm in condition. They next day I got a hot water bottle and put some water in it as hot as I could bear it and the next day, while pitching in batting practice[,] I cut one down the alley pretty good[,] and that is where my arm seemed to come around.
So we moved over to Memphis for a series of games. I asked to start the first game. I won after fifteen innings of hard work. When we came back to Nashville everyone asked me, How did you do it? The only thing I could tell them was that my arm had come back to me.
At that time, Dudley, the right fielder of the St. Louis Stars, was there with us. He was also a student of the Meharry Medical College, [and] didn’t have to report to St. Louis until his school was over for the year. Pretty soon he left and in a few days I received a telegram from St. Louis asking if I would like to pitch for them. Naturally, I said yes. All of the boys who at one time made me the joke of the team wanted to shake my hand—“Bully for you, and hope you make good,” were their remarks. Before long I reported to the St. Louis Stars, which at the time [were] playing at sixty-nine hundred Broadway, before they built their new park on Compton and Market.
The next day I was slated to hurl against Rube Foster’s club. What will fate do, [and] what will become of all of the hardships of the past? Did I win or not?
Part Three …The manager of the St. Louis [Stars] was Bill Gatewood[,] in days gone by one of the greatest pitchers of the Negro National League.
Manager Gatewood came to me and said, “Warm up, lad.” I started the game and before I could get any one out, three runs had crossed the plate. Then suddenly the game was halted and my manager came out to the pitcher’s mound and what he said to me wouldn’t look good in print. Some of the things I shall never forget. Among other things he said, “Here you are[,] large enough to beat Samson[,] and yet you couldn’t break a window glass with the balls you are throwing.” To be frank he really made me angry.
I began to cut the ball across the plate like a rifle shot…but after the smoke of battle had passed away the score was five to nothing against me.
Manager Gatewood did not take me out of the game nor did he have any other pitcher warm up, and in my mind I was sure to be back in Nashville before twenty-four hours.
But fate was kind to me for I managed to hold Foster’s team to six runs while my team mates scored seven runs and won the game.
Now I could send a telegram home with the great news and from that day on I have had my ups and downs[,] but I am still holding on and trying to make good.
And dear fans of Los Angeles, I am very grateful to you all for attending our ball games this winter, and I am sure that the entire club feels the same way.
Very soon we will board a rattler for home and when the Eastern fans ask me about our trip, I can say you can’t beat Los Angeles.
Keep on boosting your colored athletes and before long the whole world will have to sit [up] and take notice.
The St. Louis Giants were apparently already in existence as an amateur or semipro club when a local bank messenger named Charles Alexander Mills took over their management in 1906. The team was “merely a joke,” he would write for the St. Louis Argus in 1919, “playing from lot to lot, and receiving nothing more than car fare and a few small tokens, which were picked up by managers off bets.” If he wanted to make more of the club, Mills realized he would need access to capital. “I tried everyone whom I thought had a few dollars. The result, ‘nothing doing’. My next move was a visit to Conrad Kuebler (white), who at that time owned a baseball park known as Kuebler’s park.” To Mills’s surprise, Kuebler agreed to fund the Giants—but he cut a hard bargain, demanding nearly all profits, with Mills to do all the work of handling the club.
Here’s a note from the Indianapolis Freeman (March 14, 1908):
The “National Colored Baseball League” did not come to fruition, but Kuebler did succeed in organizing a league of six local black clubs, which a couple of months later the Freeman claimed “has been wonderfully successful financially.” This aside, our takeaway for the moment is the remark that Kuebler owned “two large ball parks,” one of which he had recently built specifically for “league games”—because this last park was the St. Louis Giants’ first home field, widely reported by numerous sources over several years to have been “Kuebler’s Park” at 6100 North Broadway.
The trouble is, this address, according to a Sanborn fire insurance map made in 1908, was then clearly not the location of a ballpark:
Kevin Johnson, however, found what is apparently a ballpark two blocks away, bounded by Prescott, Pope, and Clarence avenues. And in the 1992 edition of Green Cathedrals, Phil Lowry locates Kuebler’s Park at exactly this location.
Could this park be Kuebler’s Park after all, even though it was actually located at 6100 (or really something like 6032) Prescott, rather than 6100 North Broadway?
Whether it was or not, the St. Louis Giants wouldn’t remain there for long. In 1910, according to the former Giants’ first baseman H. P. Warmack, the team began to play in Timothy Kavanaugh’s “Athletic park” (Freeman, September 9, 1911). A book called Missouri’s Black Heritage locates this park on Garrison and North Market, which is quite easy to find. Here it is, on a 1909 Sanborn map:
An African-American team (possibly the Giants, possibly another club) also played at Handlan’s Park at the corner of Grand and Laclede avenues in the summer of 1910. This would later be refurbished and rechristened as Federal League Park, the home of that circuit’s St. Louis Terriers. Here’s a Sanborn map from 1908, again courtesy of Kevin Johnson:
According to an article Kevin found in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (August 2, 1910, p. 9), nearby (white) residents had signed a petition to grant permission for “amateur baseball games” to be held at Handlan Park. But when
the players and spectators proved to be negroes, and when yellow banners appeared on the park fence announcing that the place was ‘the only negro summer garden in St. Louis’, the signers realized that a light mulatto, with close-cropped hair, had been mistaken for a white man.”
The white residents then claimed they had been purposefully deceived, and organized a movement to drive the black ballplayers, entertainers, and spectators out of the neighborhood.
Charlie Mills and his St. Louis Giants really faced two problems when trying to secure a home park: the difficulty of obtaining access to enough capital, which tended to put them at the mercies of white businessmen; and a local geography of racism that made it difficult to locate the proper facilities in the “right” neighborhoods. The North Broadway area in which “Kuebler’s park” was located was quite distant from the most important black areas of the city, for example.
As Mills put it in his 1919 article, “They kept me moving from park to park until I was ‘blue in the face’.” In the second part I’ll chronicle some of these movements in the 1910s and how they were put to a (temporary) end in 1919 with the construction of Giants Park.